Limerick young guns set for Munster senior debuts

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Limerick young guns set for Munster senior debuts

THREE of Limerick's rising young rugby stars are in line to make their Munster senior debuts off the bench in the province's pre-season friendly with Zebre at Waterford RSC on Friday night.

Ardscoil Ris' Conor Fitzgerald and the Young Munster duo of Dan Goggin and Calvin Nash have all been listed among the replacements for the clash which has a 7pm start-time.

Both former Limerick minor hurler Fitzgerald, who is 18 years old, and Calvin Nash, who recently turned 19, of Crescent College Comprehensive, received their Leaving Cert results this Wednesday.

Conor Fitzgerald's older brother Stephen has been selected to start at full back in the game. If, as expected sub-academy out-half Conor Fitzgerald, is introduced as a replacement, then the Limerick brothers will be the third set of brothers to represent the Munster senior side in the past year, alongside the Scannells, Rory and Niall,  and Johnstons, David and Bill.

Munster's South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said: “Young fly-half Conor Fitzgerald is going to do well. He's been training from the beginning with us but he's a young guy.

“He's going to get an opportunity this weekend and sometimes guys like that get an opportunity and they just take it. There's also pressure on some guys like that to come and perform all of a sudden.”

Munster out-half Johnny Holland is struggling with a hamstring injury, while Kiwi number 10 Tyler Bleyendaal is set to feature for Munster in their second pre-season game against Worcester Warriors on Friday week.

Experienced out-half Ian Keatley will start for Munster in the number 10 shirt this Friday night.

Erasmus also indicated that Young Munster centre Goggin will also get gametime either in Friday's tie with the Italian Pro12 side or in the following week's friendly fixture with Worcester Warriors at Musgrave Park.

Munster have been dealt a blow in the centre with Francis Saili's shoulder injury set to keep him sidelined for three to four months.

Erasmus said: “Look, there's young guys putting up their hand like Dan Goggin and those guys who will now certainly have the opportunity to put up their hands in the next two games.

“I think the next two warm-up games will definitely be a gauge for us to see will we be okay in that area into the season. If we're not we'll obviously have to make a plan.”

In naming an extended squad of 29 for the clash with Zebre, Erasmus has included a mix of experience and emerging talent for what will be Munster's first trip to the east of the province since August 2014 with Waterford's own Jack O'Donoghue and Steven McMahon in line to feature this weekend.

An all-senior tight five sees John Ryan, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer make up the front row with recent academy graduate and injury returnee John Madigan (knee) starting alongside captain Billy Holland in the second row.

Former Leinster centre Colm O'Shea joins Cian Bohane in the midfield. O'Shea has trained with the squad in preseason having previously lined out for Ireland against the Barbarians at Thomond Park in June 2015.

Ronan O'Mahony and Darren Sweetnam take charge of the flanks for the first pre-season fixture.

There is also a first squad inclusion for experienced tighthead John Andress and lock Darren O'Shea, while Cork Con scrumhalf John Poland is named in first senior representative side. Munster will welcome back all their Irish internationals back into their starting line-up by the third round of the  Pro12.

“The third Pro12 game would be the latest that they'll be incorporated,”  Erasmus said.

MUNSTER: Stephen Fitzgerald; Darren Sweetnam, Cian Bohane, Colm O'Shea, Ronan O'Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; John Madigan, Billy Holland - capt., Dave O'Callaghan, Conor Oliver, Jack O'Donoghue. Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, Peter McCabe, John Andress, Brian Scott, Darren O'Shea, Dave Foley, Ollie Lyons, Gavin Coombes, John Poland, Conor Fitzgerald, Dan Goggin, David Johnston, Calvin Nash, Steven McMahon.